South Eastern Ontario is a world famous destination for summer escapes. Places where you take your family, or friends to do away with the trifles of urban existence. You know what I’m talking about. That place where you can kick back, unwind, and be immersed in pure tranquillity. [Read more…]
Tents, sleeping bags, S’mores, and freaky ghost stories by a crackling fire. They’re all synonymous with a cultural phenomenon that has lasted centuries. Well, maybe it’s more like several millennia. [Read more…]
Photos: Mike Hector
Before we get started, I should be completely honest with you. I have lived in Kingston, Ontario for the better part of my life – so, naturally, this particular experience was on familiar territory. After spending a sunny afternoon with Kingston Food Tours, however, I was amazed at just how much I didn’t know about the Limestone City. [Read more…]
Here at South Eastern Ontario we’ve explored some amazing locations together and told countless stories about the variety of things to do and places to see on dry land. However, it’s beneath the surface of the St. Lawrence River, that we discover an entirely different story. One that began as far back as when the Earth was forged, and still continues to unfold today. [Read more…]
As we roll into March, there is a resounding sigh of relief in South Eastern Ontario as yet another winter ends up in our collective rear-view. The vanishing snow reveals the once buried grass, and soon enough, the iconic images of shamrocks and other green things mark the approach of Saint Patrick’s Day. [Read more…]
As we find ourselves in February, we can finally see that light at the end of that tunnel known as winter. The sun holds fast to the evening horizon as the days grow longer if ever so slightly, and yes, love is in the air.
This year, instead of the typical box of truffles, or Netflix and chill; why not drop the kids at grandma’s and whisk yourselves away for a romantic getaway here in beautiful Southeastern Ontario? Don’t have kids? Then my friend, your planning phase just got way easier.
For your consideration, I present this lovely list of amorous escapes and relevant romantic dinner suggestions that will make this year’s Valentine’s one for the history books.
Cornwall & the Counties
Auberge Chesley’s Inn, Cornwall
Auberge Chesley’s Inn is a beautiful Georgian style house and B&B that has quite an interesting history. First built in 1814, it has been host to many famous guests over the centuries including famed writer Charles Dickens himself!
The decor of the Chesley’s suites are akin to stepping into a long lost and romanticized era, but with all the modern amenities one would expect, including ensuite baths and rainforest showers.
In the morning, be prepared for some epic breakfast choices at Chesley’s Inn, ranging from lighter fare to a full-fledged French Canadian breakfast spread.
Russell Manor Bed & Breakfast, Morrisburg
Russell Manor is a glorious manse, first built in the early 1870s. The house is a striking tribute to French Second Empire architecture, with a warm and authentic Victorian-inspired decor.
I stayed here with my wife for a weekend in 2011 when we were in town for a Medieval Festival and were blown away.
Today, this elegant bed and breakfast is still going strong and has received nothing but positive reviews over the years. The owners; Michael and Ron are excellent hosts and serve what is, in my opinion, the best omelettes I’ve ever had, using herbs grown in their gardens.
Don’t wait to seize your chance to experience this one of a kind b&b in Morrisburg.
Brockville & 1000 Islands
Sir Isaac Brock Bed & Breakfast
The Sir Isaac Brock B&B is a painstakingly restored 1824 limestone Georgian-style house that today, offers luxurious suites in a unique and heritage styled atmosphere in Brockville’s charming downtown area.
This captivating B&B is only steps away from Brockville’s premiere attractions, shopping and dining venues making it a novel choice for a fun-filled escape for two. The Sir Isaac Brock B&B is also a 2017 Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice winner with rave reviews.
For dinner, I’d recommend a short five-minute stroll down John Street for a decadent meal at The Mill Restaurant. This piece of Canada’s history is a real labour of love that was brought back from the brink when it was purchased and renovated into the charming restaurant it is today.
The Noble Suites Experiences
Just one look at the Noble Suites in Brockville and you can feel a certain romantic tingle in the air. The ornate and ancient inspired ionic pillars which embrace the main entrance is a near mythical sight of which Cupid himself would be smitten.
The extravagant suites within are absolutely arresting in decor, and about as close as one can get to spending the weekend in a Victorian romance novel. This is definitely a destination for a private and personalized stay in a vintage style inn with modern comforts.
The Colonel’s Inn, Prescott
Situated in the beautiful riverside town of Prescott, The Colonel’s Inn is a breathtaking example of 19th-century construction. In 1835 it was the home of Colonel Alexander McDonnell and has close military ties. At one point, the basement was a temporary barracks for soldiers stationed at Fort Wellington National Historic Site.
Today, the Colonel’s former residence offers guests an incredible opportunity for a romantic getaway in true Victorian style and decadence. The rooms are classically decorated and feature a fabulous fusion of lavish furnishings and modern conveniences.
The most romantic, and eye-catching of the suites would have to be The Loft, which is located in a separate building that was once the carriage house. This spacious room features an en-suite whirlpool and private entrance.
Although the Inn does not do dinner on a regular basis, romantic dinners at The Colonel’s Inn are available with advanced notice for booked guests. If you are more in the mood for a restaurant, the management can suggest a number of options.
A full hot breakfast is served each morning with free flowing coffee and tea available throughout the day, and on-site parking is free. For more information visit the Inn’s website.
Rideau Heritage Route
Abbott Road Suites, Kemptville
Abbott Road Suites is a very private venue comprised of two magnificent suites of a more modern and refined atmosphere. Situated in a taking executive bungalow, the suites are equally luxurious and have private access.
I’d call dibs on The West Suite, however, which sports a fireplace, a heated tile washroom complete with separate walk-in shower, and a Jacuzzi.
For dinner, it’s certainly worth the short drive to experience Kemptville’s iconic and storied fine dining venue: The Brigadoon; for a mouthwatering Filet Mignon. If beef isn’t your thing, I hear that the Chicken Drambuie is to die for. At any rate, the Brigadoon’s menu more than speaks for itself.
The Baldachin Inn, Merrickville
Standing proudly in Merrickville since 1860, the stunning Baldachin Inn features a heritage designated interior with original stained glass windows, stonework, and other brilliant features.
The on-site restaurant & pub offers traditional old world inspired cuisine along with the warm hospitality and atmosphere associated with the timeline.
It’s large stone fireplace, and arched windows are beautiful and certainly help enhance an already unforgettable experience. One night here, and you’ll know why many refer to Merrickville as the Jewel of The Rideau.
The Lockhouse B&B, Westport
Situated in the heart of Westport, the Lockhouse B&B offers guests a pair of spacious and private suites only steps away from town. The suites are well-priced and feature private and comfortable accommodation.
The Lockhouse sports an attractive library and living space for relaxing; and serves a full breakfast with both vegan and gluten free options available. The Lockhouse B&B’s website is currently under construction, so for contact info visit their page on BB Canada.com.
The Tangled Garden Cafe is a short but splendid walk from the B&B and presents a versatile menu of delicious choices ranging from creative omelets to super sandwiches; as well as some great pasta dishes and entrees.
The Cove Restaurant & Resort, Westport
The Cove Restaurant & Resort has been a favourite spot for travelers since 1988. Current chef Joanne Edwards applies her passion and culinary talent, crafting home cooked dishes based on the now legendary menu items made famous by Mary Cowan, the Cove’s owner.
The ambiance and atmosphere of the Cove’s dining room are both memorable and inviting, making this restaurant a treasured element of Westport’s experience. The menu has items suited for every taste, from steaks to pasta; as well as the prized Westport original: The Growley Basket.
On top of the epic food, the inn itself is wonderful and has a luxurious spa conveniently located next door for all your de-stressing desires.
Be sure to check the Cove’s website to confirm vacancy.
Gananoque Inn & Spa
The fabled Gananoque Inn has a special place in my heart, not only for it’s rich and significant local history; but also because my wife and I spent our first anniversary there. This visually striking building that was once a carriage-works became a famous inn prior to the turn of the century.
The suites and interior of the building proper, boast an accurate and welcoming Victorian charm, with one of the most picturesque dining rooms I’ve ever visited: The Watermark. The atmosphere and accommodations are a living example of 19th-century luxury and service.
For accommodations and bookings, visit the Gananoque Inn & Spa’s website.
Rosemount Inn & Spa
This divine utopia of relaxation and luxurious accommodation is an all-in-one destination for couples looking to melt the stress away and unwind in style.
My dinner choice to accompany a night at the Rosemount would have to be Windmills Cafe, where fine dining and amazing local artwork intersect. The dinner menu is full of superb choices and covers a variety of tastes.
After returning to the Rosemount don’t forget to take advantage of their magnificent breakfast menu. I am told that the Welsh Toast is the stuff of legends.
Secret Garden Inn
The inn’s mesmerizing interior features a grand parlour with turret window seating, ‘fainting couches’ and furnishings made popular in the 1830’s set around an ornate fireplace. The lovingly decorated suites are evocative of an era when comfort and luxury were more of an artform.
For dinner, consider Stone City Ales, which is just a short walk from the inn. Not only is this one of Kingston’s famed craft breweries, but it’s also a favoured taproom and dinner venue serving up some amazing dishes. I’d recommend sharing a more intimate and interactive dish like their popular charcuterie boards, paired with a flight (or two) of Stone City’s excellent brews.
The Hochelaga Inn
Among Kingston’s most recognizable overnight options is the famous Hochelaga Inn. This arresting French Victorian Mansion features 21 rooms each different in their own way but sharing in the Hochelaga’s vexing Victorian theme.
The most famous suite is the Tower Room for obvious reasons. It’s almost mystical in a way with its tiny staircase that leads to a stain glass illuminated turret room that also has a ladder that leads to the tower proper, and a meditative room.
For dinner, I suggest the low-light ambiance of Megalos Restaurant. The menu is robust but not complicated and features a selection of really sexy sounding pasta dishes. For dessert, ask about the “Show Stoppers” and thank me later.
Frontenac Club Inn
The Frontenac Club Inn is an acclaimed bed and breakfast located in the heart of Kingston’s historic downtown area. Originally built in 1845 as a bank, this charming limestone building later became a gentlemen’s club in 1903.
Their suites are bright, lively in decor, and perfect for weekend retreats and exemplary comfort. Breakfast the next day will be an experience in itself comprising of locally sourced ingredients.
Not far from the Frontenac Club is the Brock Street Common and one of Kingston’s most popular dining choices: the Chien Noir Bistro.
This bistro has an ambiance that screams romance and comes with an equally fanciful menu. I highly recommend the poutine, which features Quebec brie, shredded duck confit, and a brilliant “green peppercorn cognac jus”.
The Green Acres Inn
Hidden in plain sight on Kingston’s West end is the Green Acres Inn. Positioned a short drive from downtown, and surrounded by prime shopping and dining options, this quaint but luxurious Inn has plenty in store.
One look at the suites is all you need. The Tulip Suite has a jacuzzi, and not one but two fireplaces; one of which is in the bathroom along with a television.
Now you can watch When Harry Met Sally while soaking in the hot tub and relaxing by the fire simultaneously. What a time to be alive!
When hunger strikes, Ramekins is a quick six-minute drive or cab ride away. For 20 years this local family owned establishment has been well known for casual fine dining at it’s best. The quiet and relaxed atmosphere is perfect for an intimate dinner for two. The menu is full of tantalizing choices and has the best price for a pound of mussels I’ve seen on this side of Halifax.
Bay of Quinte
St. John’s Inn and B&B, Belleville
Belleville’s St. John’s Inn and B&B is in a prime location that places this lovely stone house in proximity to several local attractions including the Empire Theatre, Spa 237 and the Pinnacle Playhouse.
Paulo’s Italian Trattoria is a mere nine-minute walk from St. John’s; and nothing quite says “amore” like a romantic Italian dinner. Paulo’s website is a bit old school, but their menu features a bounty of Mediterranean finery including pasta, pizza, steaks and more.
For more information and booking options, please visit St. John’s Inn’s BB Canada page.
Montrose Inn and Tea Room, Belleville
Reminiscent of the grand plantations of the American South, the Montrose Inn & Tea Room is an enchanting example of antebellum architecture, right here in The Great Waterway. The mansion was built in 1916 and still has several original features; over a century later.
The elegance of the suites only serve to enhance the overall experience with their authentic furnishings and extravagant decor. The room that caught my eye is the Adelina which boasts an en-suite ‘two-person thermal masseuse tub’, gas fireplace, spa robes and splendid furniture.
To add to the romantic energy, consider the eastern delights of the nearby Royal Haveli for a spicy and exotic meal of fine Indian cuisine. There’s something about Indian food that invokes a certain romance. Perhaps this is because it originates from the very same culture that produced the Kama Sutra.
Prince Edward County
The Waring House, Picton
Prince Edward County is regarded as one of Southeastern Ontario’s most famous destinations for romantic escapes, fantastic food, and arresting scenery. The Waring House is no exception to those claims, as you will soon discover.
This astonishing Inn is a memorable choice for couples seeking an unforgettable retreat. Among their splendid choice of suites, I have my heart set on the Vineyard View Cottage, because, that’s how I roll.
You won’t have to go far to find a delicious dinner at Amelia’s Garden which is located in-house. One glimpse at one of their sample dinner menus will have you scrambling to make a reservation.
The Merrill Inn, Picton
Nestled away in Picton, at the heart of the County is the elegant and historic: Merrill Inn.
Host to 13 wonderfully appointed suites, the Merrill’s accommodations feature original local art, pillow-top bedding and (depending on which room) jacuzzi’s and cozy fireplaces.
Stays include a complimentary hot breakfast and afternoon refreshments. Enjoy a sumptuous meal consisting of County bistro cuisine; created by the very talented: Chef Michael Sullivan, in the Merrill’s intimate on-site restaurant.
Angeline’s Inn, Bloomfield
Angeline’s Inn is a grand Victorian edification to the history and mesmerizing charm of Prince Edward County. The building dates back to the prosperous Barley Days era between 1860 and 1890 and has a rather extensive story of its own.
The management was kind enough to inform me that the in-house eatery is closed for January and February but suggested the nearby Saylor House Cafe for breakfast and lunch, and Agrarian Bistro for lunch and dinner.
Drake Devonshire, Wellington
Last but certainly not least is the Drake Devonshire. This epic destination takes ownership of its own unique blend of culture, community, and enriched hospitality.
The rooms feature a stunningly modernized design that clearly differentiates from more vintage themed inns throughout the region.
Dining at the Devonshire is always a treat, with a mouthwatering menu catering to brunch, lunch, or dinner. The only difficult aspect of staying at the Drake Devonshire is leaving.
You Deserve This
While we’re still a couple of weeks away from Valentine’s, there are still plenty of opportunities to plan for and arrange a much-needed escape. With our proximity to Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto, The Great Waterway offers a bounty of options here in Southeastern Ontario that are only a short drive away.
I hope that this collection of ideas inspires you and that special someone to treat yourselves to a truly memorable and refreshing retreat. This year, do something spontaneous and enjoy a romantic experience you won’t soon forget.
Your Romantic Escape Awaits!
Prince Edward County
Sybil Frank Gallery
Sybil Frank Gallery is a relatively new addition to Prince Edward County’s vast selection of art galleries and artist studios.
Curator, Craig Alexander has gathered an inspiring collection consisting of multiple styles and mediums.
Here you’ll find vivid metal, and glass sculptures as well as bold abstract pieces. The ever changing collection is also complemented by and gorgeous florals, stunning landscapes, and interesting still life examples.
For updates, images, and more information visit the Sybil Frank Facebook Page.
Arts on Main Gallery
Situated in historic Picton, Arts on Main is a fantastic gallery that is run by a collective of talented artists.
Prepare to be amazed by a collection of sweet eye candy consisting of mixed media, graphic art, sculpture, quilts, weaving, silks, and so much more.
While browsing the Arts on Main Gallery, it’s easy to forget the snowy, slushy noise outside and be captivated by the stunning work on display.
Mad Dog Gallery
For 27 years, Mad Dog Gallery has been offering visitors an extraordinary collection of contemporary and fine art, created by some of the County’s most talented artists.
Located on the northeast side of East Lake in a spacious renovated barn, the property is surrounded by 25 acres of gardens and walking paths complimented by outdoor sculptures.
Mad Dog Gallery is a short drive from Picton and definitely worth adding to your list of galleries to check out.
For additional information visit Mad Dog’s website.
Bay of Quinte
Gallery 121 is a unique non-profit cooperative gallery that was founded in 1991. Located mere steps away from Downtown Belleville’s shopping and dining, this eclectic gallery is a must see.
The main exhibit changes every six weeks, which means that with each visit, you’ll be treated to something new and exciting.
The styles range from realism to abstract work spanning a broad spectrum of media, including oil, acrylic, watercolour, crayon, graphite, pastel, fibre, clay, and more.
For contact info, hours of operation, and details on upcoming exhibits visit Gallery 121’s website.
Land O Lakes
Zynergy Gallery & Shop
Zenergy Gallery & Shop presents visitors with a spacious retail venue containing a diverse collection of items ranging from jewelry to visual art, pottery, and stained glass creations to name but a few.
The owners are committed to providing beautiful Canadian made work but also Fair Trade exotics from around the world.
Best of all, Zenergy features a “Kidz Korner” where the little ones can colour or play games while you experience the gallery in relative peace.
Clarke Art and Projects
Clarke Art & Projects is a joint venture between artists Ann Clark and Ben Darrah that was officially launched in 2014.
The gallery itself is a historic building dating back over 150 years. Today, the gallery houses a creative hub for the entire community.
Visitors to the website, are encouraged to check out the current exhibition, past exhibitions, and upcoming events pages. Clark Art & Projects also hold several classes and workshops throughout the year for aspiring artists and visitors alike.
Stone Mills Township
The Piggery Gallery
The aptly named Piggery Gallery is a marvelous artisan gallery nestled along Lennox & Addington County Road 27 on Wartman road.
The gallery was once upon a time an actual piggery but has been entirely renovated since.
The Piggery is home to a stunning collection of handcrafted and painted furniture, rugs, quilts, pottery and other items to at pizzazz to the home.
The gallery is open Tuesdays, and Friday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. making it an ideal weekend road trip.
Quinn’s of Tweed Fine Art
Quinn’s of Tweed Fine Art
combines some of Canada’s greatest artists and creators with a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.
The gallery space encompasses an immaculate 6000 square foot historic building. The building’s 12 ft. high walls allow art to be displayed in the classical French Salon style.
A visit to Quinns is an experience in itself shared between building itself, and the captivating selection of fine artwork on display.
Overlooking Kingston’s historic Springer Market Square is Studio 22, a commercial fine art gallery and design studio representing several Canadian artists.
Many of the artists on display are from the Kingston and surrounding area, as well as other creators from Newfoundland and British Columbia.
There are several mediums and styles to observe at Studio 22, many of which utilize innovative techniques and unique materials.
For gallery hours and more information check out the Studio 22 website.
Tett Center for Creativity and Learning
The Tett Centre is essentially Kingston’s creative citadel. Within this lovingly renovated limestone building you will find a broad range of creative activity as well a pair of stunning galleries: Modern Fuel and Creativity Studios.
Side note: make sure you pop by the Juniper Cafe and enjoy a hot beverage or a delectable snack while exploring this fantastic cultural centre.
For 40 years Modern Fuel has represented a catalyst for creativity in Kingston. Upon completion of the Tett Centre, this non-profit, artist-run centre moved in and has called it home since.
There is an ever-changing series of exhibitions to enjoy at Modern Fuel that covers several interdisciplinary methods and fascinating styles. Modern Fuel is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00.
On the Tett’s second floor you’ll find Creativity Studios. It’s a cool studio that’s split into eight spaces which house eleven artists, who are at various stages of their careers.
Feel free to drop by and meet the artists. When I popped in, I definitely walked in on their lunch break – but they were very cool about it.
Ceativity Studios presents the public with an excellent opportunity to speak with the artists and learn more about the people behind the art and the amazing creations they’re working on.
Among the Kingston’s more unique galleries is Martello Alley which branches off from Wellington Street in downtown Kingston.
As soon as you step into the alley, you begin a fun and engaging journey through the collective works of several local artists.
If you happen to visit when David Dossett is there, you’re in for a treat. He is very engaging and greets visitors with a warm and inviting manner.
It’s almost as though David as a sixth sense and knows when visitors arrive before they’ve realized it themselves. Everything you see on your way into, and throughout Martello Alley has a cool story behind it – which is told best by David. You have to experience it for yourself.
Martello Alley is open 7 days a week from 10:00 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info check out their website.
Agnes Etherington Art Centre – Queen’s University
The Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University is home to over 16,000 works of art from Canada and around the world.
The impressive collection of Canadian art includes many examples of 20th-century painting and also showcases some truly arresting displays of Indigenous art and Inuit art.
For art history buffs there is an excellent collection of nearly 200 historical European pieces to peruse, including works by Rembrandt.
Throughout the year you can catch some amazing exhibitions at the Agnes – so stay tuned to their website for news and updates!
Heather Haynes Gallery
Heather Haynes Gallery originally opened in Kingston in 2012, but later moved to its new home in Gananoque in 2016.
When I last checked, there was also a display of image art by Kingston photographer Suzy Lamont, and of course the exquisite and thought-provoking art by Heather herself.
Brockville Arts Center
The displays rotate on a monthly basis and were established with the purpose of enhancing public awareness and interest in visual art.
It also goes without saying that this is the perfect place to experience some epic performances only steps away from Brockville’s beautiful downtown area.
From Here to Infinity
A stroll through downtown Brockville will also lead you to From Here to Infinity, a remarkable gallery situated in a historic building dating back to the 1840’s.
The gallery operates an archive of historic photographic prints and negatives, in addition to an amazing collection of rare and antique books.
From Here to Infinity is a fresh fusion between a curios shop and gallery, and is certainly worth a visit.
Galop Gallery is best described as a small art gallery with immense purpose. Based in the quaint riverside community of Cardinal Ontario, this little building plays a big role in the surrounding arts community.
Galop is more than just a gallery and is also a meeting space, workshop, studio, and craft market. They offer classes for kids and adults, and also hold events.
For full details and a few examples of what you’ll find visit Galop Gallery’s website.
Housed in what was once the historic Spencerville Hotel, ArtScene is a cooperative gallery created by 12 local artists.
This successful gallery contains a fabulous assortment of art including photography, glass works, pottery, painting, and fabric.
The hours and schedule for ArtScene are variable – so check out their website for full details.
Rideau Heritage Route
Gray Art Glass
Since ancient times, humans have been perfecting the craft of glassblowing. This millennia-old art form is kept alive at Gray Art Glass in Merrickville.
Between the amazing gallery and studio and live demonstrations, Gray Art Glass is an inspiring and amazing spectacle to behold. For hours and details visit their website.
The Grotto Artworks
The Grotto Artworks was founded 12 years ago, when 13 Merrickville artists combined their creative talents and resources to open a year-round venue for showcasing their works.
Today, the gallery offers a broad range of fine local crafts such as: pewter, pottery, jewelry, wood turnings, woven silk scarves, carvings, glass, and textile art.
Also on display are oils, collages, acrylics, watercolours and mixed-media creations including letterpressed prints.
For gallery hours, contact info and more visit the Grotto’s website.
Cornwall & the Counties
Priests Mill Glassworks
Priests Mill Glassworks is on a mission “to build a Centre of Glass Excellence & Learning while providing a collaborative environment for artists of all mediums.”
One visit to their location in Alexandria Ontario is sure to please, as they are making good on their objective.
In addition to browsing several examples of varying levels of beauty, you can also take lessons!
The Glass Blowing Place
I’m not going to lie; glassblowing is so hot right now. Especially in Alexandria Ontario.
The Glassblowing Place sports an extensive gallery, a learning space for the visual arts, and stunningly repurposed antiques.
Also worth checking out is the Chillax Café & Creative Lounge, free demonstrations, educational courses, and “Master workshops.”
Vivid Visual Escapes in South Eastern Ontario
South Eastern Ontario is a region teeming with creativity and an abundance of opportunities to appreciate and enjoy the work of our local artisans. Not only that but in many cases, you’ll get to meet the artists and learn more about the people behind the work.
Who knows, after exploring some of these amazing galleries you may find yourself inspired to explore a new creative outlet of your own. Maybe you’ll find a stunning piece of artwork to bring home. Perhaps you’ll create a masterpiece of your own to be showcased.
Either way, I hope that this blog helps brighten things up and gives you a few ideas for your next weekend excursion. Thanks for reading!
Discover South Eastern Ontario’s Artistic Side!
Love it or hate it, winter isn’t going anywhere soon.
While some people tend to hunker down and hibernate the cold months away – others embrace the crisp winds of winter and take full advantage of the broad selection of things to do throughout South Eastern Ontario. Getting outdoors during the winter with friends and family is not only healthy, but a great opportunity to make an otherwise dark and dreary season into a collection of positive memories you’ll keep for life. [Read more…]
It goes without saying that 2016 has been a particularly unique year.
Here in Southeastern Ontario, this past year has been particularly exciting for travellers and locals alike. Spanning from the Bay of Quinte to Cornwall and the Counties, 2016 has been a year brimming with fun-filled activities, wonderful special events, delicious culinary experiences, and great music festivals.
In the short time since I first joined in on the journey, we’ve traveled to some fascinating places together. We’ve gone off the beaten path and visited a remarkable variety of destinations hidden in plain sight. We bravely explored The Great Waterway’s paranormal history – and even stepped through time to rediscover this region’s rich and living heritage.
As we rapidly approach the New Year, it’s the perfect time to take a look back and reflect on 2016’s outstanding events and happenings. Without further delay, here is a collection of some of our favourite moments from 2016.
BAY OF QUINTE
Return of the Quinte International Airshow
June 25-26th 2016 saw the triumphant return of this epic aviation event after a long, seven-year hiatus. Roughly 75,000 spectators gathered at CFB Trenton to marvel at aerobatic performances by the Snowbirds, the ever popular CF-18 demo, and a variety of other gorgeous aircraft from both the Royal Canadian and United States’ Air Forces.
If you’ve never experienced the thrill and adrenaline rush of an air-show, fear not! The 2016 Quinte International Air Show was so successful that it has been confirmed to be a biennial event, coming back in 2018!
Trenton Scottish Irish Festival
The Trenton Scottish-Irish Festival is always a fun event for the whole family. September 2016 marked a bigger than ever celebration of the Bay of Quinte’s Celtic ancestry with a variety of traditional music, highland games, and authentic heritage foods.
The 2016 festival’s most unforgettable moment perhaps, was a fantastic performance by Alan Doyle, best known for his vocals in the popular Canadian Celtic band: Great Big Sea!
Savour: Bay of Quinte Food and Drink Festival
Savour was an especially tasty event held in October at Trenton’s Knights of Columbus Hall. It brought together a spectacular collection of local wineries, brewers and culinary masters from the surrounding area, resulting in a casual and uniquely local celebration of music, food, and beverages, as well as beautiful exhibits of fine art.
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY
20th Anniversary of the Prince Edward County Authors Festival
April 2016 was a rather momentous occasion for the Prince Edward County Authors Festival as attendees helped celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary. This literary festival began as a “small idea in 1996″, first originating in Milford Ontario.
Two decades later, the PEC Authors Festival has grown into a four-day extravaganza featuring poetry readings, kids story sessions, and in-depth conversations with Canadian literary icons including Linwood Barclay and Nino Ricci, and more!
Stay tuned to their website for details about next year!
Countylicious is a bi-annual celebration of Prince Edward County’s unique culinary creativity and talent. During the 2016 celebration, chefs from participating restaurants carefully crafted County inspired three-course meals that came at incredible ‘prixe-fixe’ rates.
Great Waterway blogger: Jordan Whitehouse took us behind the menus of Countylicious and sat down with three of the participating chefs to get an insider’s look into this famous (and delicious) event.
Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area
The cosmic events viewable from the Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area top the list of The Great Waterway’s far from ordinary activities. This ideal destination for astronomy enthusiasts and stargazers alike offers some of the best views of our night’s sky.
Professional astronomers have described the Dark Sky Viewing Area as the most southerly point in Ontario, presenting a “perfect” and undisturbed opportunity to observe some amazing interstellar sights including the Northern Lights, the Perseid meteor showers, constellations and so much more.
For directions and more information check out the L&A Dark Sky Facebook Page.
Subterranean Adventures at the Hell Holes Nature Trails & Caves
While many of our stories take place among scenic driving routes, picturesque national parks, and other fantastic attractions – one destination, in particular, showcases a wondrous world of discovery directly underground. Back in June, The Great Waterway’s adventure blogger: Jenn Pinarski took her family to the Hell Holes and gave us a first-hand glimpse into this fascinating underworld.
The Hell Holes Nature Trails & Caves near Napanee boasts a huge choice of geological attractions including walking trails, a mini-like rainforest environment, and some seriously cool caves ripe for spelunking.
Seed to Sausage’s 5th Annual Day of the Pig
For the fifth year in a row, Seed to Sausage has hosted the ‘Day of the Pig” food festival in Tichborne Ontario. The festival boasts an eclectic gathering of chefs, craft brewers, wineries and other artisan food producers from Southeastern Ontario and beyond.
In May 2016 visitors flocked to the Land O Lakes region to indulge their taste buds with a menagerie of mouthwatering local fare. Day of the Pig has been growing each year in popularity and is sure to make a return in 2017. Stay tuned to Seed to Sausage’s Facebook for details.
The Tragically Hip Celebration in Springer Market Square
August 20th, 2016 was the day that Kingston became our nation’s capital once more. The Limestone City was the final stop for The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem Tour, and perhaps the band’s last show.
Over 25,000 fans flocked to Kingston from all over Canada to pay homage to Gord Downie and collectively celebrate an iconic group of Canadian musicians in their very own hometown. We were on hand to attend the celebration in Springer Market Square, where we spoke with fans and stood witness to a momentous occasion fit for the history books.
Re-opening of Kingston Pen Tours
For nearly a century and a half, Kingston Penitentiary has stood as an infamous and formidable structure looming over Portsmouth Village with an ominous air of history, and intrigue. Some of Canada’s most notorious criminals have been incarcerated here over the years, and some have even escaped from this massive limestone prison.
In June, Jenn Pinarski bravely took us beyond the North Gate, and into Kingston Pen’s labyrinthian cell blocks and it’s deepest dungeons on an incredible exploration of this iconic destination.
Kingston Pen Tours will be returning from May to October 2017, so be sure to stay tuned for ticket info!
Lumina Borealis surprised us all in a good way and took the region by storm after launching on December 1st, 2016. This mystical adventure of mythic proportions has transformed Fort Henry National Historic site into something out of a storybook.
Our very own Jenn Pinarski wrote an excellent article about her magical experience at Lumina Borealis and how this event offers a unique and creative winter attraction for the entire family.
The best news is that Lumina will continue until February 4th, 2017 so there is still time to score tickets and experience it for yourself. This winter, make the trip to Kingston and unleash your imagination in the frozen fantasy realm of Lumina Borealis!
The Launch of Skywood Eco Adventure Park
I can remember being a kid, watching Return of the Jedi for the five hundredth time, and wishing I could run around in a real life Ewok tree village. Thanks to the 2016 launch of Skywood Eco Adventure Park that childhood fantasy has pretty much, become a reality.
This fantastic outdoor attraction is Ontario’s largest zip lining and canopy adventure park featuring a tree-top village for the kids in addition to a selection of courses that meet a variety of skill levels.
The park is closed for the winter, but this article on our blog should give you a good idea of what to expect when Skywood re-opens this spring!
Gananoque Nickel Cup Hydroplane Regatta
Hydroplane racing has been a popular event in the 1000 Islands region since the 1940’s. Back then, the event was made possible through the sponsorship of Gananoque native: Frank LaQue, the Vice President of the International Nickel Company.
To this day, the Gananoque Nickel Cup still draws thousands of spectators to watch these fascinating speed boats reach pulse-pounding speeds more than 200 miles per hour and revel in the rumble and roar of the engines.
BROCKVILLE & 1000 ISLANDS
Brockville Tall Ships Festival
On September 16-18th 2016 Brockville’s waterfront was graced once more with the elegant majesty of the Tall Ships Festival. For three exciting days, an estimated 40,000 or more visitors amassed along Brockville’s scenic waterfront to view a venerable fleet of ships representing several eras of maritime heritage.
Like silent, graceful gods of the sea, these beautiful ships sailed through the St. Lawrence and perhaps time itself; as they paraded before a massive crowd. Visitors were also able to step aboard some of the ships, meet the crews and come face to face with history.
The Brockville Aquatarium Officially Launches
The long-awaited grand opening of the Brockville Aquatarium was held on May 6th, 2016, after over half a decade in development. This interactive marine centre presents visitors with a fun and experiential way to learn about the St. Lawrence River’s history and ecology.
The Aquatarium is a 25.5 million dollar labour of love that is open year round to visitors. There are so many fun activities to choose from, that you could easily spend an entire day at this amazing attraction. Luckily, we have you covered with this handy guide.
New Craft Brewery and Craft Distillery lift spirits in Johnstown
In tandem with the 178th anniversary of the famed Battle of the Windmill, the Windmill Brewery opened it’s doors in Johnstown on November 12, 2016. This new, up and coming Ontario craft brewer is located only steps away from the historic site for which it is named. Their crisp, golden Czech style pilsner uses local ingredients and is a must try for any who enjoy a cold pint.
Right next door to the brewery is yet another new, and welcome addition to Ontario’s roster of craft beverage producers: King’s Lock Craft Distillery. King’s Lock opened their doors in June 2016 with a debut selection of handcrafted spirits using local, organic ingredients and sustainable practices.
RIDEAU HERITAGE ROUTE
The Ongoing Rejuvenation of The Opinicon Dining & Resort
At the end of the 2012 season, the famous and legendary Opinicon Resort had to close its doors due to several overlapping economic factors at the time. For a while, it was uncertain as to what would become of this cherished summer escape.
In September 2015, the Opinicon made international headlines when it was confirmed that the resort would once again reopen. Ever since the reopening the beloved Ontario destination has been undergoing renovations with each passing moment. The exciting journey of the Opinicon’s is lovingly chronicled on their Facebook page by the current owner, with regular video blogs.
As recently as November 2016, the Opinicon’s comeback story was presented to the Canadian Senate. The Opinicon’s return has been hailed as an economic boon for the Rideau Lakes community and tourism sector.
After a successful launch in 2015, Rideau Tours has expanded their 2016 offering from what was only a few custom tours and bike rentals to a great selection of “signature experiences.” The new roster of activities includes kayaking, cycling adventures and even boat trips.
What’s more, Rideau Tours has also added fun packages like gourmet picnics for the family, in addition to a steadily growing list of features. The picnics include delicious foods sourced from local sources and offer an excellent way to relax and enjoy a picnic while exploring the magnificent Rideau Canal.
200th Year Anniversary of the Settler’s Trek
Two hundred years ago, some of the first settlers of Upper Canada embarked on a perilous 100-kilometer journey from what is now Brockville to Perth. They were promised land and a fresh start in a new world, but it did not come to them with any level of ease.
Today, this historical trek is commemorated by a dedicated group of community organizers at the Settler’s Trek; who just celebrated the event’s bicentennial journey in 2016. By today’s standards, a 100 km drive doesn’t sound like much. But in 1816 it was a grueling six-day journey where survival was not guaranteed.
If you’re up to the task and want to literally walk in the steps a 19th-century settler, day trekkers can register and join in on the journey for a small fee. Emergency medical assistance is available throughout the trek, but luckily your chances of contracting scurvy will be slim and nil in 2017.
CORNWALL & THE COUNTIES
Glengarry Highland Games
Whether ye have some Scottish in ye or nae – The Glengarry Highland Games are the grandest spectacle of traditional games, music and cultural entertainment this side of Edinburgh. The inaugural games were held in 1948 by a group of businessmen who wished to preserve Scottish traditions and heritage while inspiring younger generations to carry on these ancient and cherished customs.
2016 was the 69th anniversary of the Glengarry Highland Games, which drew thousands of visitors to Maxville to witness or even take part the games. The 2017 event will be held on Aug 4, 2017 – Aug 5, 2017, and will surely draw visitors from far and wide to help celebrate the games’ platinum jubilee.
Cornwall’s Summer Beer Fest
The Cornwall Summer Beer Fest is an interactive wine and beer tasting festival which draws its roots from the Seaway Food Festival. Visitors can sample a range of tasty beverages and foods, as well as meet the talented people who make them.
The 2016 festival added some great new features including educational workshops that allowed attendees to learn about food pairings, beer making, and other fascinating topics. The 2017 dates are still to be announced so stay tuned to the festival’s website for details!
Apples and Art: 25 years of Celebrating the Arts
For the 25th consecutive year, the Apples and Art Studio Tour took place in Stormont, Glengarry, and Dundas. This last event featured over 60 artists showcasing their creations in 26 locations throughout Cornwall and the Counties.
The 25th annual tour was the biggest yet, with more artists and locations along the route than ever before. Visitors were treated to a diverse range of mediums including paint, sculpture, ink, wood, glass and more. In addition to the variety of creations guests also had an opportunity to meet the artists and chat with the creative minds behind the artwork.
Happy New Year!
With the passing of each New Year, there comes not an ending, but a bounty of new beginnings. 2016 was most certainly an excellent year for Southeastern Ontario – filled with fun activities, delicious foods, stunning artwork, and jubilant celebrations shared from the Bay of Quinte to Cornwall and the Counties.
These unforgettable moments would not be possible without such a fantastic network of communities. Everywhere you go throughout this stunning region; you encounter an amazing culmination of people who continuously make Southeastern Ontario both a premier travel destination and a place I am very proud to call home.
What are your fondest memories of 2016? Let us know on our Facebook page, hit the comments below – or share your pictures with us on Twitter or Instagram! Don’t forget to use the hashtag: #GreatWaterway!
Start Planning Your 2017 Trip
Antique shops, flea markets and other purveyors of vintage curios allow us to do something that few museums can. For starters, you can touch many of the items on display, and for a negotiable price; you take the artifacts and exhibits home for personal enjoyment.
Confession time: I am an unapologetic retro-fanatic. There’s something I find both surreal and elemental about flipping through a box of old comics, music albums, movies, books, or toys. Each antique shop or flea market I visit is akin to exploring the most epic and interactive time capsules imaginable.
Filling the car with family or friends, and setting out on an antiquing mission is an excellent way to enhance an already breathtaking drive through South Eastern Ontario this time of year.
Without further delay, I am excited to share some of Southeastern Ontario’s best locations for a Retro Road Trip of your own.
Cedar Hollow Antiques & Collectibles
Situated roughly 30 minutes North of Belleville and on the very edge of Quinte West, you’ll find Stirling Ontario. This quaint little hamlet is both incredibly charming and rife with nostalgic bliss. Located on the ‘main strip’ you will find Cedar Hollow a quaint little antique shop with an eclectic collection of items.
What sets Cedar Hollow apart is their selection of hand-made sweaters, pillows and other lovingly knitted items that are ideal for both kids and adults. Stirling also has a handful other antique shops within short walking distance that are more than worth checking out.
Coolest find: “Das Boot!”
This adorable, footwear inspired beer mug and accompanying pair of hand painted shot glasses would look great behind the bar at home. They also remind me of a certain movie involving a beer festival and a certain giant boot-shaped mug.
Among the fantastic shops and dining venues of Belleville’s gorgeous and newly revived downtown area is one particular store with a certain flair for the evocative. Stepping into the Boretski Antique Gallery is more like teleporting back to the 1920’s showroom of a fine clothier and social outfitter.
Everywhere you look in this store is a selection of captivating couture such as original Stetson hats, vibrantly tailored dresses and vintage evening gowns of the roaring twenties. While browsing through Mr. and Mrs. Boretski’s immaculate store, it’s easy to spend several hours in absolute awe of just how much swagger our great grandparents had.
Coolest Find: Faux-Stain Glass Coca Cola Phone
As someone who took advertising and marketing in college, I admittedly ‘geek out’ when I see things like this. Branded merchandise like this is a fantastic example of just how far companies went to get their brand names into the household.
Dead People’s Stuff
Dead People’s Stuff in Prince Edward County is the most aptly named antique store I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The shop itself is situated in what appears to be an old carriage house or stable and is jam packed with some truly memorable items.
The store has limited hours (currently Friday through Sunday), but the store’s super-nice owner Sue is happy to book appointments for groups. This store is a must-visit for anyone interested in antiques and interesting items of yesteryear.
Cool Find: Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr. Conway Twitty!
Family Guy references aside, this album is only one example of the awesome collection of dead people’s vinyl you can sort through. Also, be sure to ask Sue (the owner) about her collection of laser discs. They’re pretty much the gigantic great-great grandfather of CD’s DVD’s Blu-Ray Disc. Learning is fun!
Karen Brown’s Antiques & Collectibles
While cruising along Highway 2, it’s hard to miss this immense antique store located on the Eastern edge of the Town Deseronto. Inside this converted warehouse space is a literal treasure trove of items and rare collectibles.
I could easily spend an entire day browsing through Karen’s expansive selection of items and still not see everything. One of my favourite aspects of this particular antique spot was the sheer amount of vintage advertising items. From old store displays to metal signs for beverages, beer labels and more it was like walking through a museum of merchandising.
Cool Find: Dibs on that O’Keefe Merchandise!
I wasn’t nearly old enough to drink when O’Keefe existed, and nor was I when this brand of beer vanished. I do, however, remember my aunt taking me to see shows at the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto (now the Sony Centre for Performing Arts.) as a child.
Kingston’s enchanting downtown area permeates a nostalgic and even inspiring energy of its own which draws from the city’s potent history and vibrant atmosphere for arts and culture. No pun intended, wandering around town never gets old.
Tucked away from the mainstays of Princess Street, at 207b Wellington St. – is a 4000 square foot and elegantly arranged treasure vault known as Antique Alley. For 30 years the store’s owner Gayle Dawdy has been working with other prominent Kingston collectors of antiques and unusual items to provide a diverse and visually stimulating shopping experience.
Among the coveted collection of curios at Antique Alley, what truly captivated me was the most beautiful Underwood No. 5 Typewriter I have ever laid eyes upon.
Cool Find: Turn of the Century Underwood Typewriter (manufactured 1900-1920)
This near century-old machine with its scuffed black finish and visibly worn keys spoke to my inner scribe. I envisioned a previous owner passionately slamming words onto the page, with a literary fervor that rivals my own. This lovingly used typewriter was once the other half of the bond that exists between a writer and medium. A bridge between the imaginary and physical realms.
I would have taken it home – and believe me I was tempted, but I already own a vintage typewriter of my own. Perhaps this literary relic will speak out to someone else, and with some TLC – fill the air with the rhythmic song of its keys once more.
Old Love Antiques
I happened upon this particular shop while exploring Gananoque for this very article. There are two other flea markets in town that are fabulous (Never Enough Antiques & Collectibles & Gananoque Flea Market) – but I was immediately smitten with this exceptional little boutique.
The store is situated on King Street East just steps away from the town’s exciting menagerie of shopping and dining choices. Old Love possesses a visually captivating arrangement of vintage jewelry, curios and ladies’ clothing. This location is an ideal stop for couples. There is a certain romantic tinge to the air that one can feel while exploring Old Love’s collection.
Side note: while browsing the store with my wife I found myself transfixed by a small nook-display labeled “Mantiquing Section.” It was a small wooden dresser, each drawer of which containing collections of vintage lighters, tie-clips, pocket knives, little green army figurines, belt buckles, cufflinks and other objects of a gentleman’s intrigue.
Cool Find: Vintage Coca Cola Bottle Opener (Circa 1904?)
At this point, I am ready to admit I have a possible obsession with bottle openers. This one, in particular, stood out because of the “Drink Coca-Cola” slogan – which was used by the company shortly after the turn of the century. It’s a bit worn, but a nice cleaning will revitalize this little beauty that’s been opening people’s drinks for a little over a century.
Seaway Treasures Antiques
Brockville is famous the world-over for its gorgeous waterfront, shopping, fantastic attractions and fascinating history. Hidden in plain sight at 175 King Street West – Seaway Treasures is easily one of my favorite places to score some old school collectibles.
There are two floors, featuring a remarkable variety of items including art, home décor, old electronics, military curios and so much more. I was most impressed by the collection of vintage toy train sets and parts. My father would have gone bonkers in this place.
Cool, Find: “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?” (Star Wars Action Figure, circa 1995)
I happened upon this little guy by chance at the front counter as I was about to leave. There was a storage rack filled with old toys and action figures – and it wasn’t long before I was digging through it. When I was a kid, I had this exact toy, but it was lost somewhere or ended up buried in my sandbox.
At first glance, my inner seven year old demanded this small totemic reminder of the countless hours spent in an imaginary galaxy far, far, away. He’s now enjoying his retirement by taking selfies from my bookcase.
Just Southwest of Smiths Falls, in the scenic Rideau Lakes region, is a legendary destination that is best described as the El Dorado or King Solomon’s Treasure of Antique spots. Rideau Antiques is easily the most colossal collection of antiques, primitives, and Canadiana I have ever seen in one location.
To say that the experience is overwhelming would be a vast understatement. The yards surrounding the house are covered with row after row of miscellaneous items in shoulder high piles. Beside the house is a barn-style building packed to the near-bursting point with furniture, as well as another barn across the street filled with yet another bounty of items.
The house itself is more of a treasure vault of mythical proportions. I’m not exaggerating when I say it would be impossible to see every item within a human lifetime, let alone six.
If you are at all claustrophobic or have mobility challenges, this destination might not be ideal. It is an adventure in itself just navigating the massive columns of stacked items throughout the house and premises. There were areas I could not physically get to. However, the sheer amount of visual and tactile stimuli and fascinating magnitude of it all makes Rideau Antiques well worth the short drive.
McHaffie Flea Market
A short detour North of Morrisburg on County Road 31 and conveniently close to the 401 is what I refer to as Southeastern Ontario’s Shangri-La for both flea market and antique enthusiasts alike. This gargantuan flea market which consists of over 150 booths is only open on Sundays – but it’s a prime destination for families, large groups, and even pets. That’s right – this sprawling flea market is dog-friendly.
I can (and have) spent an entire day wandering around McHaffie’s in absolute bliss sorting through comics, antiques, electronics and pretty much anything you can think of. Each visit is in its way unique in that; you will always discover something new each time you go.
My absolute favourite booth here is called Welcome to Memory Lane located on the market’s lower level. The booth’s owners Terry and Kim Lickfold have the most abundant variety of retro gaming systems, parts, and toys I’ve ever seen.
Cool Find: Optimus Prime’s Real Arch Nemesis
When I was a kid, there was a brutal but short-lived rivalry between not one but two factions of robots-in-disguise. In one corner, was Hasbro’s Transformers and in the other, their similar but just never as cool competition: The Go-Bots.
I had this very vehicle when I was just a little kid torn between two feuding teams of robots that were more than met the eye. This baby is still available as far as I know – and would be a great conversation piece for any man-cave, rec room or a shameless play session in the garage with your buddies.
Plan a Retro Road-Trip Today!
I had an amazing time cruising South Eastern Ontario’s jaw-dropping autumn landscapes and snooping through some truly epic antique stores, flea markets, and other vintage vendors. Nostalgia is a powerful and contagious phenomenon.
Each and every location I explore is like a spectrum or universe in and of itself. A copious cornucopia of tactile portals through time and space. Whether you go at it alone or bring friends and family along for a shared experience – be sure to find out for yourself just how awesome and fun antiquing is.
Until next time – thanks for reading!
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